California's craft brewing industry is continuing to expand its market presence in the state. However, only a small percentage of malting barley used in California is grown within its borders. The primary bottleneck in the supply is the lack of malting facilities. Currently California is malting roughly 900 tons annually, the majority of which is done by one malt house in Alameda, with some of the barley grown in northern California shipped out of state for malting. The industry has grown somewhat in the last few years with the addition of several small malting facilities. For comparative purposes, California produces 3.7 million barrels of craft beer annually, the equivalent of around 120,000 tons of barley.
California had a long history of growing its own barley and hops before and after prohibition. Production declined in the 70s and 80s as consolidation by larger domestic producers drove California malt houses out of business. As a low-water, low-fertilizer crop, malting barley fits fairly well into most row-crop rotations in California, taking the place of wheat or feed barley when prices are more favorable. The challenge for growers comes from access to markets and a strict set of grain quality parameters associated with brewing quality that can lead to lower prices or outright crop rejection.
With these factors in mind, the University of California has developed a series of new resources related to malting barley production in California that can be found on a new website:
Resources include Fact Sheets and video presentations that address common concerns associated with the production of malting barley such as: nitrogen management and variety selection. In addition, up-to-date summaries of malting barley variety performance in UC trials, an interactive seeding rate calculator, and links to malting barley-related UC research are also available. As additional malting barley-related resources are developed, they will be added to this page.